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Quick Kicks: Thoughts And Reaction From Sunderland's Festive Schedule

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It was brilliant, then it was decent, then it was totally rubbish. Here are a couple of things we noted from Sunderland's festive schedule.

Clive Brunskill

The Wrong Points Gained?

The funny thing is, that 4 points from the 3 games isn't too bad. Had Aston Villa been beaten rather than Everton, I suspect many wouldn't have really complained.

But as it is it is just the latest in a long line of missed opportunities. The chance was there for Everton to be almost bonus points - that extra thrust to push us up the league. Instead, we all feel kind of on a downer and feeling like we are getting absolutely nowhere.

Highly frustrating.

Dreadful Decision-Making

There are a plethora of different arguments about just why Sunderland labour to win games. Some say it's a lack of quality, others cite a lack of pace. There are those who believe the system is wrong or the referees are giving the club an unusually tough time.

There is probably a case to be made for all of them, but for me there is no doubt about the biggest contributing factor - the utterly wretched decision-making by the players on the pitch, particularly at home.

Against both Norwich and Aston Villa, players were electing to shoot from distance with a quite staggering level of propensity.

It is a huge problem because there is little point in the pretty passing football with which we move up the pitch now if the second someone gets to within 30 yards of the goal they just welly it into the crowd. That's just another kind of hoofing at the end of the day.

Curiously it's only really looked to be a problem at home where the expectation from the crowd is present. At both Everton and Cardiff, there were times when a spell of sustained passing football around the box resulted in very good chances being created. That's the way it needs to be really. When the players are playing at home, though, they seem to take the first chance to shoot and they don't seem to care how far out there are.

It's something that Poyet himself bemoaned after Villa, when he said too many players 'want to be heroes' instead of 'playing like a team'.

I'm not blaming the crowd in any way here. Expectant big crowds who engage with the action is just a feature of this club. It's a feature of most clubs at this level. The problem is the players' apparent failure to cope with it. If you let the crowd influence your decisions on the pitch, you have a massive problem.

Sometimes, though, you wonder if it is all down to fear. Putting your foot through the ball is such an easy option. If it flies in the top corner, you are the hero. If not, you can be seen to be taking responsibility. It's a win/win for the individual, but it really hurts the team. They need to start showing the courage to create, or at least try to.

Until that crippling feature of our game is eradicated, we just don't have a prayer because we are too easy to defend against. In fact, defending against us isn't even required. Stand your ground and we'll thwack the ball harmlessly out of play for you at the earliest possible convenience.

Keep Those Chins Up

The Aston Villa result and manner of performance was a massive kick in the teeth. It would well be the lowest point of the season so far.

But football can surprise you. I remember after Norwich feeling pretty similarly, and within a week the whole thing had completely changed and we suddenly fancied ourselves. In a couple of weeks, it could have again.

Call me deluded if you like, but believing has got to be better than conceding.